6 months ago I started using Trello because I suddenly had a lot more work than I could comfortably handle without some structured planning and tracking of my tasks. I started off simply with a few lists to show different stages of progress for my tasks, such as to do, doing and done, as well as on hold/awaiting input for tasks that I had to wait for something else to happen before I could complete them.
The way I use Trello is still evolving. I began with just one task board which had all of my tasks on it, then I created additional boards to hold my monthly tasks as well as project boards separate from my regular working board.
I ended up with many different boards and losing track of my work, so I started moving the tasks I would work on into a ‘workflow’ board, moving them back to their original board when they were complete.
After using that system for a few weeks, I realised that duplicating the monthly cards within a board was easy enough, so I stopped using monthly boards and instead created a monthly list in my workflow board. I keep the tasks on there in the order that I complete them in and have some automation set up to duplicate the cards as I take them out of the reporting list, then put the duplicate back in that list at the bottom.
Butler For Trello
The way I have automation in my Trello boards is by using an external bot/tool called ButlerBot. As mentioned above, I use ButlerBot to automatically duplicate any card I move out of the monthly reporting list and put it back in there, but I also have it move the due date of the new card ahead by a month. This, along with the calendar power-up in Trello, helps me focus on what I should work on next.
Duplicating cards isn’t the only thing that ButlerBot is good for, there are many little tasks you can perform in Trello that ButlerBot can do for you, such as assigning people to cards, adding labels or moving the cards to other boards that ButlerBot has been invited to (ButlerBot is like another user and needs to be invited to every board you want to use it on).
There are other automation options, such as IFTT or Zapier, but I don’t use automation for much more than duplication, moving cards and automatically tracking the time I’ve spent working on cards, so ButlerBot covers all my needs for now.
Plus For Trello
Before I started using Trello, one of the questions I wanted answering was how long it took me to complete tasks. I wanted to know which tasks used up the most of my time so that I knew which ones I should focus on cutting down and I also wanted to be able to give better estimates of how long those tasks would take.
There are quite a few options available for time-tracking, with varying levels of integration. Toggl has a browser plug-in that adds a timer button to your cards, but then the actual tracking is done outside Trello in the Toggl application. I used Toggl for a while before that and tried to make it work, but I really wanted something within Trello itself.
I found T-Metric, but I just couldn’t get on with it, so I dropped using that one after a couple of days. Then I discovered Plus for Trello, a Chrome add-in which allows you to track and view time spent on cards directly within the cards themselves.
With Plus I have the option of manually entering the time I’ve spent on the cards, starting and stopping a timer within the card, or integrating it with ButlerBot to automatically track time for me.
With Trello, ButlerBot and Plus, I can confidently tell my manager if I have a full schedule or not and update them any time on where I am with all of my tasks, including how long I have left on them and how much time I need for my other projects.
I have even gotten better at estimating ad-hoc tasks as I track every single one and if I build up a decent enough idea of what is involved in the work, I can usually give a pretty good estimate of how long it will take.
I’ve been moving a lot of ad-hoc requests from my email inbox to Trello to work on. I don’t always do it so I have to make myself more disciplined there, but most of the time when a task drops into my email inbox, I copy it into my Trello inbox/to-do list and then I sort that email into another folder.
Every time I do this, I get closer to inbox zero, which is one of those productivity hacks that you read a lot about. There is still some work for me to do on sorting my emails, maybe I just haven’t come across the method that will work best for me, but they have certainly gotten a lot better since I started moving my tasks into Trello.
Trello is also much easier to search than emails, and being able to add attachments to the cards means that I don’t lose files as easily as before!
My Trello usage is still a work-in-progress, but since I started using it six months ago my productivity has greatly increased, even with all the time I’ve spent learning how to use it and different methods of using it. For anyone feeling like they aren’t getting as much done as they would like, or wondering where all the time goes, I would recommend giving Trello or another project management tool a try, the effort it takes to learn how to use these tools is easily offset from the clarity you gain on your tasks and projects.
Remember, it’s better to just start using something now and then worry what the best one is later!